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Challenging The Impact of Pandemic On Engineering Laboratory Courses - Solution, Evaluation and Lesson
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous impacts on K-12 and higher education generally in the past year. And the situation is more severe in the laboratory courses of undergraduate engineering majors. The engineering lab courses have high requirements in student’s hand-on experience and collaboration, as well as the communication with instructors to solve their problems on experiment setups. Also, some experiments rely on expensive equipment and devices in lab. Therefore, the instructors should challenge back the pandemic impact on engineering laboratory courses by redesigning the contents and schedules of these courses coordinately.
In this paper the changes to the lab sessions of “Electronics” course are introduced and applied to accommodate the COVID-19 protocol on campus, while alleviating the pandemic impact on student’s learning quality and performance. The “Electronics” is a key fundamental and required course to the undergraduate students in Electrical Engineer major. The major changes include: a) the modifications of experiment instructions and schedule. Some relevant lab sessions are combined to reduce student’s meeting times in lab as possible; b) the new requirements of prelab-simulation tasks and individual prelab-reports. The students become more familiar to the technical information and experiment procedure before they come to lab; c) alternative solutions to the students who prefer to perform in-home labs. This paper describes the detail of these changes and solutions adopted in the fall semester of 2020 and the spring semester of 2021. Based on the student performance evaluation from these activities, it has been found that: a) most of students prefer to on-campus lab sessions over at-home or online ones; b) due to the applied social-distancing rule, sometimes delay occurs in some student groups but is controllable with instructor’s extra guidance after class; c) compared to peer’s online lab teaching experience, the on-campus lab practice can do much better work in time management, hardware checking and code debugging in a “mask-to-mask” environment in lab. Therefore, on-campus learning environment is inevitable to ensure the knowledge-gain quality and learning experience of students for many engineering laboratory courses. Proper modifications can be made to engineering lab courses to accommodate to the new teaching environment during pandemic, while ensuring the safety of students and the quality of ABET-required laboratory performance.